OMINOUS: Johnny Key at City Board.
I had a conflict and couldn't watch Education Commissioner Johnny Key's
appearance before the Little Rock City Board of Director
s but two TV accounts and a comment or two from others weren't encouraging to those who hope for a return of a democratically controlled universal system of public education in Little Rock.
that Key emphasized that even adequate scores at five schools (of 48) on academic distress wouldn't necessarily release the Little Rock School District from state control this fall because the rules say a distress status can be cured only by a three-year rolling average. (Unless you are a charter school, of course, in which case continuing failure means nothing to Key or his handlers at the Walton Family Foundation.)
Channel 7 News asked Key if it was realistic for the public to expect new LRSD Superintendent Michael Poore to get the district out of state control if there is a three year average.
KTHV was even more
"I think we can expect that he is going to do everything he can to make that happen. So much is dependent on those test results that you can't predict." Key said.
Many faces in the crowd winced when Mayor Mark Stodola asked Key, how LRSD will reach goals set by his department, when they're facing financial constraints, and are expected to lose another $37 million in desegregation funding.
Key's response: charter schools will ease that burden.
THV11 wanted to make sure we understood Key correctly, so we asked him to clarify.
"What the waivers do is allow opportunities for cost-savings. So that, on top of the cost savings that have already been implemented. We're not out of the woods, on the financial future of the district, but I think we've made a lot of progress towards fixing that, and as charter schools expand and students leave, you might lose kids, but you're getting kids from other districts.”
[City Director Kathy] Webb disagrees, saying that expanding charter schools is not the way to establish financial stability at LRSD.
Webb was too polite. She should have responded that what Key had just said was utter horse bleep. Draining kids from wealthier families with already-proficient test scores is going to help the Little Rock School District?
One Twitter report said Key advocated "conversion charters" as a solution to the problem. This is particularly ominous. In 2015, Key and the Walton Family Foundation and other Republicans and members of the Billionaire Boys Club favored legislation that would have allowed turning the entire district over to private charter school management companies. Sounds like that idea isn't dead.
the new superintendent hired by Key after he fired Baker Kurrus
for objecting to continued charter expansion, dutifully Tweeted a photo of Key at the meeting in front of a sign that said the state was going to emphasize "student-focused education." This is essentially a libel of the tens of thousands of people who've devoted their lives to focusing on students. But it fits the Walton theme that schools are run by uncaring slackers interested only in their own paychecks.
Key said he supported a strong public education system. What he didn't say was what that means. Does it mean a democratically elected school board in Little Rock? Or does it mean a crazy quilt of have- and have-not charter schools — hidden from full accountability — experimenting on our children with the latest scheme out of the Walton-financed propaganda mill at the University of Walton? City Director Kathy Webb
had a response for Key on Twitter: "Let's pause charter expansion & keep qualified teachers."
SPEAKING Of SCHOOL PERFORMANCE: The Little Rock School District has compiled the latest 1st and 2nd grade test scores broken down in a way to compare schools with low percentages of poor children and those with high percentages of poor children. Scores at charter schools are added into the mix.
To put it simply: High poverty is a predictor generally of low scores. And vice versa. The poorest Little Rock schools are made up of almost 100 percent student bodies that qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Kurrus has devised a ranking that takes into account poverty rate and test scores to rank how well the schools perform against their expectations based on poverty percentages. In short, the highly touted charter schools don't do so hot.
You can check it out at this link.
I don't think it matters much. Kurrus' last day is June 30. The Waltons at that point will be thoroughly in control. I don't think they intend to let go until they've achieved their aim of a New Orleans-style takeover of the Little Rock School District. Don't confuse the Hutchinson administration with anyone who gives a fig about the wishes of people in the Little Rock School District for self-determination. Perhaps we should all pray, as Key used to have charges do at his state-financed pre-school in Mountain Home.